Gaming Commission Moves Quickly to Clear Encore of Lawsuit Charges

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC)
moved quickly last week to investigate claims in a class-action lawsuit against
Encore Boston Harbor, and then announced on Thursday they felt Encore’s
practices were appropriate – that the lawsuit “conflates” state regulations on
Blackjack.

“We reviewed the claim and have
preliminarily found Encore to be in compliance for payouts on Blackjack,” said
Bruce Band, assistant director of the Investigations and Enforcement Bureau
(IEB). “The word ‘conflate’ is exactly right here. Six-to-five is used for two
things. One is a variation sub-game of Blackjack that so far hasn’t been dealt
anywhere in Massachusetts. Six-to-five is also a type of payout for someone
playing standard Blackjack if they hit a Blackjack. You need to know what they
odds are at that table if they hit a Blackjack. That’s what that is.”

The lawsuit was filed by Attorney Joshua
Garick on behalf of Richard Schuster of New York in a class-action format.
Schuster had played at the Encore and alleged that they were playing the
Blackjack game wrong, and that they were withholding change from patrons at the
electronic redemption machines.

In terms of the change machines, Band said
the machines at Encore payout dollar amounts, and then dispense certificates
for the change. Those certificates are good for one year and can be claimed at
the cashier. However, they can also be used at another slot machine.

Band said they felt that the redemption
machines were operating at standard procedures for a casino, but they suggested
a sign be placed on the machine making it clear what is happening with the
change.

“What we did find was it probably wasn’t
stated clearly enough so they have added a sign that clearly expresses this on
the machine,” said Band.

Both claims, one on Blackjack and one on the
change machines, were refuted by the MGC. Commissioners assured everyone that
there is a state process for unclaimed winnings, and none of that money remains
or stays with Encore. It is kept in a type of escrow account, and then turned
over to the state at the end of one year.

All of it was much to the delight of Encore
officials.

“I feel the lawsuit is completely without
merit, and I was particularly interested in the issue about the redemption of
the slot tickets,” said President Bob DeSalvio. “There were allegations in
there that for some reason they thought we might be rounding to our favor. It
is completely, utterly false. Every customer gets every penny they deserve at
Encore Boston Harbor. Never would we engage in a practice that would actually
keep any of a customer’s money they deserve. There is no way, shape or form any
customer is not getting exactly what they should get. Nor is there any
opportunity at the end of the year for any unclaimed monies to come back to the
property.”

DeSalvio also said emphatically that Encore
is following all of the Blackjack rules, and the MGC agreed with that in its
report.

“The claims in the lawsuit are false and
unfounded,” he said. “They went back and looked at our procedures. They went
back and looked at our games. They went back and looked at the felt on the
tables. What they found is they are all exactly as they should be. There’s
really no issue at all on Blackjack. None. Zero. The rules are the rules and we
are following the rules exactly and that’s what you heard the Commission say.”

But Attorney Garick said he wasn’t pleased
with the ruling by the MGC, and that’s why his client will take the matter before
an impartial judge.

“It’s our interpretation of the regulations
is that the game of Blackjack does not allow an eight-deck shoe where they pay
6-to-5 odds on the Blackjack,” he said. “We intend to fully raise all these
issues to a judge rather than in a Commission where the inspector and the
casino representatives are sitting at the same table.”

DeSalvio said they are going to seriously
consider putting some electronic redemption machines on the floor that have the
ability to dispense change. He said they made a customer-based decision early
on to only put out machines that dispensed dollars. He said customers –
especially at high-volume times – would rather not wait for a machine to be
filled with pennies to get their dollar winnings.

“We will go back and take a look at having
certain units on the floor that would make it more convenient to get the
change,” he said. “Understand, the reason we did it this way was actually for
customer convenience because if you are standing in front of one of those redemption
units and it was to run out of pennies, and you had to wait 30 or 40 minutes,
I’ll be you would be more upset about having to wait for 5 cents or 15 cents
because that machine will lock up until it’s refilled with coin. The reason we
did it was for customer service. If I can add another option to make it even
more convenient for customers, I’m happy to do so. I’ll certainly take a look
at that.”

Garick said they were happy the Commission
and Encore paid attention to the suit, and that they were happy that some
changes – like the change machines – were being considered.

“We’re certainly happy they have heeded the
issues addressed in our lawsuit and have made some changes to the procedures
they have,” he said. “I think that indicates they knew that there was some
issues with the way they were dispensing change to customers. Frankly, I think
this idea that people don’t want to wait for change is kind of a cop out. If I
went to a table game and had $9.90 and the table minimum was $10, well they
would wait for me to find that extra 10 cents…At this point the money is
maintained by the casino. The regulations do require that after one year the
money is paid to the state. We’re aware of that, but that doesn’t mean the
consumer should be out that money that belongs to them.”

Garick said they didn’t plan to sue the MGC,
and he said they did not have a court date yet.

DeSalvio said
their attorneys would be responding to the suit “post haste.”

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Gaming Commission Moves Quickly to Clear Encore of Lawsuit Charges

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